Nature’s resplendent display of wonders peaks in the North-eastern region of India. With Tibet in the north and east, Bhutan on its east, Indian state West Bengal in the south and Nepal on its West, Sikkim is one of the most important tourist locations in the North-East. Almost 35 percent of it covered by Kanchenjunga National Park, this state is the least populous and the second smallest state in the country.

Sikkim 2 (3)

Trekking in Sikkim: Nature and Nurture
Although home to a multitude of tourist spots, cultural fests, trekking summits owing to its proximity to the Himalayas and its abundant flora and fauna unique to this region, three of the most happening treks stand out as ideal getaway to the Himalayas. Goecha La is the best trek if a majestic view of Kanchenjunga and exploring Kanchenjunga on an intense expedition is one of your travel goals, Sandakphu is a picturesque trail for the trekkers that think the journey is as important as the destination itself and an excursion to Singalila offers up, close and personal views of the Singalila range and spotting rare wilderness in the Singalila National Park.

Here’s a complete breakdown of the three jewels of North-East:

Goecha La

Home to world’s highest mountains like Kanchenjunga, the trek to Goecha la is for those on the lookout for a trek that challenges them within and almost simultaneously delights them with the richness of natural beauty surrounding them. Exotic flora and fauna, alpine meadows, glacier basins, this place in Sikkim is a treasure trove for travelers curious to seek Nature’s wonders.  

goecha Best season: Best time to visit the Kanchenjunga National Park is from the last week of March to May during which the days are bright and nights are cold. Monsoons remain incredibly unfavorable because of the high possibility of landslides, blocked transportation, slippery trails, etc. Post monsoon, in the months of September and November, one can capture crystal-clear views of all the peaks. This is a good time to head to Goecha la. Due to heavy snowing, winters remain unfavorable for this trek.

  • Goecha la offers splendid views of world’s third highest mountain Kanchenjunga and Pandin, Tien Chenkhang, Koktang, Jopuno, etc.
  • Explore the stunning stupas, monasteries, temples and wildlife sanctuaries located in the region
  • Traverse through lush green pasturelands, vibrant fauna, rare wildlife species, alpine meadows and glaciers to reach your final destination

    Early morning sun rising from Mt. Kanchenjunga
    Early morning sun rising from Mt. Kanchenjunga

  • Spot Eurasian tree sparrow, pied bush cat and green-tailed sunbird and enjoy the rare sight of Himalayan endangered species like musk deer, red panda and blue sheep in the Kanchenjunga National Park if you are lucky!
  • In Lamuney, walk through clouds and camp under the glittery sky at night

Sandakphu

Sandakphu trek is a brilliant trek for the simple reason that it offers unmatched views of the highest peaks in the world (Sleeping Buddha i.e. Kanchenjunga, Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Annapurna range) and the journey to that spot on the map is filled with mesmerizing natural wonders itself. At many a point, the exhaustion of trekking through dense forests is lifted by the joy of sighting a meadow as vast as the eye goes. Trekking alongside Siri river and staying in the guest houses or camping right there is another matter of delight. The trek offers striking views of everything you expect from a retreat into the lap of nature: forests, waterfalls, alpine meadows and then some.

Sleeping Buddha, Sandakphu
Sleeping Buddha, Sandakphu

Best season: While in the spring, the trail to Sandakphu is covered in the most scenic way possible by rhododendrons among other exotic flora (spot the magnificent mangolia from Chitre to Meghma!), the trek is accessible even in winters and the snow-laden trails are as charming as the destination itself.

  • One of the most beautiful rhododendron treks; trek in Spring to behold the beauty with your own eyes as you make way to the Sandakphu summit
  • Explore the vibrant Buddhist culture as you start your trek from Chitre village; pay a visit to the splendid monasteries and stupas around

    Singalila National Park
    Singalila National Park

  • Camping in Singalila National Park; enjoy the days of camping amid North East’s natural beauty; wake up to a sunrise on Singalila range and spot blue bamboos in the jungle!

    A guest house in Tumling
    A guest house in Tumling

  • Tumling’s guest houses set on the serene river bankside; Tumling lies on the Indo-Nepal border and houses many a beautiful tea estate in the region; you can look at the entire Sandakphu trail from the ascent after Tumling

    Black Lake or Kaliphokri
    Black Lake or Kalaphokri

  • Kalaphokri or ‘Black Lake’: After Tumling, reach the bean-shaped black lake that refuses to freeze even in deadly winters. Believed to be divine, the lake is surrounded by an array of Buddhist flags found fluttering in the wind.
  • Magnificent view of Sleeping Buddha (Kanchenjunga and sister peaks) and a 180 degree view of world’s highest mountains including Everest, Makalu, Lhotse, Nuptse, Baruntse, Chamling, Chomolonzo, Machapucchare, Chomolhari and other peaks of Annapurna range.  

Singalila Pass (and Phoktey Dara trek)

The Singalila range marks the western borders of Sikkim and Darjeeling with Nepal. You have a fantastic opportunity to trek to the passes and ranges that lie within India and/or Nepal. Once you reach Singalila pass, trek further to Kalijhora; the top of Kalijhora is Phoktey Dara which offers a spectacular viewpoint. In the far left (west), the majestic Everest group of peaks and to the right, three sisters– Chamlang, Baruntse, Kanchendzongha, Simvo, Pandim, Tenzingkhang, one after another. The entire Kabru range (North, South, Dome) Fork I/II, Rathong, Frey peak (just above Chaurikhang, HMI base camp area) are south to the gigantic Kanchenjunga and form a semicircle in front of the massif.

Singalila range
Singalila range

Best season: March-May and October-November are the best seasons to head out on an exploration of the Singalila range. 

  • Panoramic views of four of the five world’s highest peaks including Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu and more
  • Singalila range lies on the Indo-Nepal border: the western borders of Sikkim and Darjeeling with Nepal
  • Visit Kitam Bird Sanctuary and Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary to spot the Red Crossbill and Parrotbills. If you are lucky, you might spot the endangered vividly colored Satyr Tragopan or a Kalij Pheasant as well!
  • Walk through rich forests canopied by rhododendron, magnolia and bamboo
  • Witness spellbinding sunrise at Kalijohra
  • Stay at beautiful campsites in the evening which is near a hill slope thickly covered with Magnolia and conifers
  • Access remote locations that are extremely sparsely populated so enjoy the exclusivity of it all

Trekking in the North-east is a growing interest of the young trekkers for it offers an exclusive opportunity to witness distinct culture, communities located in remote locations however so incredibly beautiful, that it makes the trekking experience wholesome and worth it.

Long gone are the times when adventure was reserved for Christopher Columbus-types. Today, mesmerizing trails laden with snow and rhododendron leading to a majestic view of the literal top of the world are accessible to even people having 9 to 5 lives. Sandakphu trek, a rhododendron trek, is not just a treat for the eye, but a chance to walk alongside the Sleeping Buddha, and so much more! Here are ten reasons why you are missing out if you haven’t planned a getaway to this little paradise yet:

  1. Rolling with the Rhododendrons 

    rhododendron-trek sandakphu
    Out of the few rhododendron treks in India, Sandakphu trek carried out in the northern part of West Bengal is a beacon of beautiful trails that are covered by rhododendrons in the spring. It’s a spectacle to behold with your own eyes!

  2. Chitrey Monastery: A reservoir of Buddhist culture
    Picture Credits: India Mike
    Picture Credits: India Mike

    The trek will begin from the Chitrey village that boasts of a majestic monastery and stupas. The government of Bengal has recently decided to promote Buddhist tourism and this is definitely going to be the center of attention. And for all the right reasons, just look at it!

  3. Kalaphokri or ‘Black Lake’kaliphokli-or-black-lake
    A bean-shaped black lake that is circumambulated by fluttering Buddhist flags is another highlight of your Sandakphu trek. It is rumored that even in really low temperatures the lake does not freeze. This lends it a strange charm, an air of mystery even. This will be your next stop after you cross Tumling.
  4. Lushness of Sandakphu’s natural charms: Forests, Waterfalls, Alpine Meadowssiri_riverThe entire hiking trail looks resplendent in the greens of lush meadows, dense forests and gurgling waterfalls and brimming Siri River. Often times, an exhausting trek through a forest will open up to a splendid meadow. Like, after you cross Lamyadhura.
  5. Spring tales

    flowers sandakphu trekIf you would love the mountainous air with a gentle smell, come down in the spring. Mountain trail through forests showcase blooming flowers all along. Spot magnificent magnolias blooming all along the trail from Chitre to Meghma.
  6. Winter is coming!

    snowedout_route
    Walk the willowy snow-laden trails of Sandakphu trek if you choose to visit in the winters. This way, the destination is not the only scenic spot on your map, the journey is filled with a whole lot of beauty as well!
  7. Wake up to the magnificent view of Sleeping BuddhaSleeping buddha sandakphu
    Kanchenjunga family of peaks seen from Sandakphu seem to be imitating Buddha in a sleeping position. The view is simply spellbinding.
    Right here, one can also spot the ridge between Goecha and Pandim which is basically called the Goecha la trek in Sikkim.
  8. Tumling’s tea estates and guest houses
    A guest house in Tumling
    A guest house in Tumling

    Tumling, lying on the Indo-Nepal border, houses beautiful guest houses. Lots of trekkers/travelers stay right here in the beautiful guest houses by the side of the ebbing river. To your right lies India and to your left is Nepal. Furthermore, on this trek, you will get to traverse through many a beautiful tea estate in the villages that lie on the border.

    After the ascent from Tumling, you will reach a point where from you can look at the entire Sandakphu trail lying ahead all at once. It will be the ultimate power-up you need to push through!

  9. Camping in Singalila National Parksingalila national park
    Spend a night camping at the best sites on this trek in Singalila National Park. As you wake up the next day, witness the sun rising from the Singalila range. This is truly what you came all the way for.
    You can also spot blue bamboos in the jungle!
  10. Witness the grandeur of world’s highest mountains in a 180 degree view

    img_2425
    At Sandakphu, to the west lies Makalu, Lhotse, Everest, Nuptse, Baruntse, Chamling, Chomolonzo, Machapucchare and other peaks of Annapurna range. To the north, Sleeping Buddha and three sister peaks. To the east, Chomolhari. What more could a trek offer!

Is there any other trek that boasts of such spectacular views of the highest mountains in the world, blooming rhododendron alongside mountain trails that lead you through dense forests to vast meadows that are so lush, it fills your heart with an overwhelming joy?

Sandakphu trek can leave you speechless momentarily but it will give you a lot to reminisce and talk about later.